Walnut consumption improves cardiovascular disease risk; however, to our knowledge, the contribution of individual walnut components has not been assessed. This study evaluated the acute consumption of whole walnuts (85 g), separated nut skins (5.6 g), de-fatted nutmeat (34 g), and nut oil (51 g) on postprandial lipemia, endothelial function, and oxidative stress. Cholesterol efflux (ex vivo) was assessed in the whole walnut treatment only. A randomized, 4-period, crossover trial was conducted in healthy overweight and obese adults (n = 15) with moderate hypercholesterolemia. There was a treatment × time point interaction for triglycerides (P < 0.01) and increased postprandial concentrations were observed for the oil and whole walnut treatments (P < 0.01). Walnut skins decreased the reactive hyperemia index (RHI) compared with baseline (P = 0.02) such that a difference persisted between the skin and oil treatments (P = 0.01). The Framingham RHI was maintained with the oil treatment compared with the skins and whole nut (P < 0.05). There was a treatment effect for the ferric reducing antioxidant potential (FRAP) (P < 0.01), and mean FRAP was greater with the oil and skin treatments compared with the nutmeat (P < 0.01). Cholesterol efflux increased by 3.3% following whole walnut consumption in J774 cells cultured with postprandial serum compared with fasting baseline (P = 0.02). Walnut oil favorably affected endothelial function and whole walnuts increased cholesterol efflux. These 2 novel mechanisms may explain in part the cardiovascular benefits of walnuts.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00938340.